Starring Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Elisabeth Moss, Corey Stoll, Glenn Fleshler, Billy Howle, Mare Winningham
Director of 27 Dresses Michael Mayer doesn’t seem to have much of a clue how to adapt Anton Chekhov’s play. He’s in good company, as other versions have also disappointed. Despite the lack of inspired direction, the actors rise to the occasion of melodrama, especially Oscar nominee Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool). The superb cast seems to relish in the theatrical like production of heavy costumes, eccentric accents and behavior. However, it’s television star Elizabeth Moss (The Square) who causes the most welcome laughter. Ronan and Howle, who can be seen later this year falling in love again On Chesil Beach, add another welcome facet to the ensemble.
Desperate to live up to his stage actress mother’s success, Konstantin (Howle) has written and designed a play to be performed outside their farm estate residence as the entire family gathers. Irina (Bening) disappointed in her son, mocks the inventive show, causing a huge row between the family and an attempted suicide. Nina (Ronan), Konstantin’s girlfriend, and star of his failed play, is so taken with famous writer Boris Trigorin (Stoll), Irina’s boyfriend, that she abandons the young lad in his greatest time of need. Masha (Moss), the daughter of the governess, lives in a perpetual state of agony over her love for Konstantin. In this family, no one is content with what they have, only focused on what’s just outside their reach.
What looks like a stuff period piece is often times just that, however the wit and humor associated with the characters more often than not keeps the audience engaged.
Michael Mayer’s adapts Anton Chekhov’s work like a telenovella. The Seagull is often times so utterly ridiculous it’s impossible not to enjoy. What looks like a stuff period piece is often times just that, however the wit and humor associated with the characters more often than not keeps the audience engaged. It’s easy to see how the set up would be easier to capture on stage than screen, and why so many cinematic versions of The Seagull have suffered a similar, forgettable fate. However, watching Bening and Ronan interact is nearly worth the price of admission.
“Nothing happens in your plays,” Nina sweetly comforts Konstantin’s despair. The same might could be said for Chekhov, even the one character that’s dying is never allowed to do so. The Seagull focuses on selfish people, lovers and despair, all while sending audiences (especially ones that find themselves in front of this picture) away with nothing groundbreaking. The comedy is instead the lonely space where we must find out entertainment and sadly there just isn’t enough to sustain 104 minutes of running time. The adaptation is fairly tame, Howle’s rear is shown skinny dipping, otherwise it’s lots of missed opportunity for something a bit more daring.
The outlandish performances sustain entertainment even when the production begs you to fall asleep.